ENGLAND – England drew 1-1 against Hungary at Wembley, halted their climb to the World Cup in Qatar and placed their direct qualification to the clash that will play next day against Albania.
After beating Andorra 0-5, Gareth Southgate’s men, in their second round of the international window, had the option of leaving their qualification for the World Cup on track. He faced a rival who has languished since Mexico 1986, his last participation in a World Cup, and who faced a past of glory with the memory of the exhibition at Wembley on November 25, 1953.
That day, led by Ferenc Puskas, Hungary won 3-6 and put on a modern football spectacle never seen at the time. That memory, very distant, contrasts with the current Hungary, in the recovery phase after participating in the last two European Cups but far from the level of past times almost forgotten in time.
For good measure, Southgate used his best pieces. After reserving them against Andorra, he only repeated in the eleven with John Stones and Phil Foden in the eleven. With all his artillery, including Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Mason Mount and Harry Kane, he launched into the game with his best weapons.
However, a very well worked and organized team was found. Hungary greased their defensive machinery to perfection with superb placement. Well locked behind, during the first half they unhinged England, unable to generate chances. Only from set pieces, he was able to disturb the goal defended by Peter Gulacsi.
This is how the Stones goal came to the edge of the break, after a foul launched by Foden that Tyrone Mings extended with a head and that reached the foot of the Manchester City center-back. He only had to push the ball and avoid further upset, because Hungary had taken the lead twenty minutes earlier through Roland Sallai.
The Magyar forward did not miss a penalty committed by Luke Shaw on Loïc Négo. The Spanish referee Alejandro Hernández did not hesitate to point out the maximum penalty after a clearance by the English left-back that ended up touching Négo’s head. Before he clearly touched the ball, but for Hernández there was no doubt: it was a penalty.
Sallai gave a well-deserved award to Hungary, which not only dared to defend with order. He also knew how to handle the ball. He never hit a pitch. He always tried to take it out from behind without avoiding it with a ball. His idea, to which the whole game was faithful, was risky, but at times it was right. He left England without the ball.
After passing through the changing rooms, the duel followed almost the same paths. The physical wear and tear left more holes, but the trend was pretty much the same, with England thick and Hungary like a rock behind. The chances were not going to be excessive and Southgate’s team could not fail to win.
Sterling had it in a heads up that he wasted against Gulácsi, very fast and providential to save his team. There wasn’t much else. Hungary did too much and England’s creativity dried up. Now, they will have to wait for the next match, against Albania, to seal their qualification for the World Cup. Hungary needs a miracle to reach the play-off.